Friday, May 1, 2015

VA Doctors Still Aren't Allowed to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Their Patients

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The U.S. House killed an amendment yesterday that would have allowed physicians with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

The amendment—introduced by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and co-sponsored by eight others including Arizona's Rep. Ruben Gallego, also a Democrat—to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was supposed to scratch a prohibition in the department that bans VA doctors from bringing up medical weed as an option to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and other conditions. 

“House Republicans just can’t help putting themselves on the wrong side of polling, history, and compassion for our troops. For a group of legislators who consistently insist on ‘getting government out of the doctor-patient relationship,’ tonight’s vote is a case study in hypocrisy," said a statement by Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (they're trying to get a ballot to legalize recreational weed in the state).

“Mountains of medical evidence demonstrate marijuana’s safety and efficacy in treating PTSD, chronic pain, and other conditions that affect our veterans. We owe it to them to make every medical treatment option available. Instead, they’ll have to get by on lip service and outdated war on drugs rhetoric from House Republicans.”

It came close though, the amendment was defeated by a narrow vote of 210-213, with mostly Republicans opposing. 

Even though 23 states have legalized the use of medical cannabis for certain debilitating conditions—Arizona added PTSD to that list last year—it is still considered illegal at a federal level. The Drug Enforcement Administration has argued that there is not enough medical or scientific evidence to OK its use. There is plenty of veterans who stand by its benefits, but that's considered testimonial evidence.

From a study by the National Institute of Health:
"As states debate the most effective ways to administer a medical marijuana program, hospitals and pharmacies are commonly mandated to be in charge of distribution. In view of the ambiguity in federal and state laws, this pivotal role places facilities in potential legal peril. Under these circumstances, intentional violation of the Controlled Substances Act could lead to fines or imprisonment for employees, closure of a facility, loss of DEA controlled-substances registration and facility licensure, and loss of federal health care funding."
Arizona-based researcher Sue Sisley is en route to finally begin her study, after years of hurdles. (Sisley got the DEA's approval five years ago, the FDA also gave her the green light, and right now she's just waiting for one last special strain of weed from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.) She was supposed to house her study at the University of Arizona, but they ended her contract last summer. Sisley claims it was because of political pressure on the UA from anti-marijuana politicians. 

She hopes her findings will finally bring forward all of the evidence needed to prove the benefits weed has on PTSD. 

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